Tuesday, October 27, 2009

“On a mountain of skulls, in the castle of pain, I sat on a throne of blood! What was will be! What is will be no more! Now is the season of evil!”

So Ghostbusters was good times, yeah? Spawned a spin-off cartoon show (that was awesome) and then in 1989, Ghostbusters II came out with a new supernatural threat that threatened the good innocent undeserving-of-calamity people of New York. So why isn’t it as well regarded as the first? I mean, besides being a sequel and the general stigma that they carry.

Several years after saving New York and then being sued into unemployment, the former Ghostbusters are working generally menial jobs but then a spike in ghostly activity and portents about the end of the world get the band back together as they have to deal with a Carpathian Warlord trying to come back to the land of the living. Hilarity ensues for 107 or so minutes.

Dr. Peter Venkman: Billy Murray’s Venkman has gone on to the logical job after the Ghostbusters gig fell apart, he’s got a TV show where he interviews various crackpots & kooks about their crazy paranormal theories. Still the deadpan snarker of the film, he’s mostly just trying to get back together with Dana.

Dr. Raymond Stantz: Dan Aykroyd is still the more “childlike” Ghostbuster in his enthusiasm. He’s the owner of an occult bookstore and even runs gigs in full gear doing kids parties. Still, Ray is the one that’s most eager to get back in business.

Dr. Egon Spengler: Harold Ramis is still Egon, who’s still been doing the mad scientist thing and hanging out in Ray’s Occult Books. Sadly, it seems like the thing he had going with Janine in the first movie is over.

Winston Zeddemore: Ernie Hudson is still Winston, and he’s been doing party gigs with Ray to stay in work. After the team reunites officially, Winston seems to be the one who gets the most development. He’s no longer the new guy, and he’s still got the down-to-earth view (compared to the other three), but he’s also a lot more active in investigations. And he’s able to stand up to a ghost train driving through him with minimal trauma. That’s pretty badass.

Janine Melnitz: Annie Potts comes back as the Ghosbusters’ snarky secretary when they get back in business. Except she’s not quite as mercilessly snarky this time around. That gets mitigated with a subplot of her and Louis babysitting Dana’s kid.

Louis Tully: Rick Moranis returns as neurotic accountant Louis, only this time he’s also called in to be the Ghostbusters’ lawyer during a trial, then he becomes their accountant. Pure comic relief in this film, he and Janine get it on comically during the babysitting scene.

Dana Barrett: Sigourney Weaver returns and is several years estranged from Peter and has a kid from another relationship, Oscar. Dana (well, Oscar, to be precise) becomes the target of the supernatural scheme of the movie.

Dr. Janosz Poha: Peter MacNicol plays completely over the top as the Eastern European director of an exhibit in a museum. Dana works for him and he’s got an awkward (and because he’s creepy, a rather hopeless) crush on her. He becomes the henchman for the bad guy, turning in a very Renfield-like performance (which is only natural, since he’d play Renfield himself Dracula: Dead and Loving It).

Jack Hardemeyer: Kurt Fuller plays a jerkwad of a mayor’s aide that is trying to keep the Ghostbusters from getting back in business and away from the mayor (its an election year, after all). He’s a smarmy jerk, but he’s just not quite as asshole-ish as Walter Peck.

Vigo, the Scourge of Carpathia: Played by Wilhelm von Homburg and voiced by the always awesome Max Von Sydow, Vigo haunts a painting of himself, and he’s a bad dude. Maybe not quite as big a threat as Gozer, but he is a palpable one, and powerful. And Venkman gets a lot of great lines at Vigo’s expense. He’s also got a connection to a river of emotion reactive slime that’s running under the city too.

Ivan Reitman returns as the director and the visual style remains the same (in a good way). The special effects are improved (naturally) and while it doesn’t quite reach the same level of awesome that seeing Stay Puft Marshmallow Man walking around, the movie does have the Statue of Liberty walking through the streets of New York while “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me” plays is a different kind of awesome.

Dan Aykroyd & Harold Ramis deliver another pretty good plot with solid characterizations and hilarious dialogue. Still, the problem with it is that its not quite as inspired as the first film’s. A lot of the great scenes are kind of similar to the first movie’s. Giant thing walking through the city. People possessed by paranormal forces. Asshole city official. Massive amounts of property damage to capture a few lower level ghosts. More of the same isn’t really a bad thing, but that’s also a source of criticism for not bringing enough new to the table.

Randy Edelman did the original score, which works but its kind of invisible in the film. Ray Parker, Jr.’s “Ghostbusters Theme” is still great, and then, because it was 1989, there was a remix done by Run DMC. Its kind of catchy in its own way, but its also…not as timeless as the original version. Also, the aforementioned "Your love keeps lifting me higher" song.

Ghostbusters II sometimes gets a bad rap as being an unworthy sequel. I respectfully disagree. It may not be as awesome and original as the, er, original, but its definitely entertaining and a solid, fun paranormal comedy.

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